RTI and Asuragen Collaboration to Benefit N.C.’s Newborns
RTI International -- a leading non-profit research institute in Research Triangle Park -- and Austin, Texas-based biotechnology company Asuragen have entered into a collaboration to look for a genetic disorder in North Carolina’s newborns.
They’ll use high-performance screening technology developed by Asuragen to test for fragile X syndrome, the leading inherited cause of intellectual disability. The technology will be incorporated into a high-throughput process in North Carolina’s Early Check Study, a free screening program led by RTI and a group of partners. The study identifies children with rare health disorders before symptoms appear, and evaluates the benefit of early treatments.
Early Check reuses the same blood samples taken by the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health for regular newborn screening. The study looks for other rare conditions, including fragile X. New and expectant mothers in North Carolina may voluntarily enroll in the Early Check program from their second trimester until four weeks after their child’s birth.
“By using this testing method in Early Check, we’ll be able to better understand the prevalence of the fragile X gene disorder,” said Don Bailey, Ph.D., distinguished fellow at RTI and principal investigator for Early Check. “Our goal is to enable studies of the earliest childhood development issues and potential interventions by identifying fragile X syndrome in infants shortly after birth.”
Asuragen’s technology provides the opportunity to test for fragile X in a large number of newborns. Until now, screening has been limited by the unavailability of a high-volume, accurate evaluation method that works for both boys and girls.
“We are proud to partner with RTI International on Early Check,” said Gary Latham, senior vice president for research and development at Asuragen. “We hope the use of this technology in such a large-scale study will help to drive how testing of newborns for many genetic disorders can be realized in the future.”
Sara Imhof, senior director of precision health at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, praised the RTI-Asuragen affiliation. “It’s an excellent example of the collaborative spirit that is strengthening precision medicine and positively impacting public health in our state,” she said.